Fabricated reports in the media have become rampant due to fierce competition among mainland publications and a lack of supervision of freelance reporters, an official newspaper says.
A signed commentary carried by the People's Daily recently questioned why so many mainland publications were willing to run unverified reports contributed by freelancers.
The commentary said the result was a large number of fabricated reports which seriously undermined the credibility of mainland media.
'It is an open secret some freelancers are actually professional liars,' the commentary said.
'It is not that difficult to verify a news item . . . But some media are willing to provide a platform for writers who make up stories.'
The commentary said many small magazines were under enormous pressure to impress readers with sensational reports amid cut-throat competition. And the attractive pay on offer can tempt writers to fabricate stories.
One of the most outrageous fabrications was a cover story carried by the popular Family magazine late last year. It claimed a female Shanxi province journalist was held captive for 61 days while investigating a story on pollution, and finally escaped by outwitting her kidnappers.
The magazine had to withdraw 110,000 copies from the market after Shanxi reporters discovered the report had been made up by a young freelancer in Shaanxi for a pay cheque of about 10,000 yuan (HK$9,400). Other fabrications included a story about a pig eating a baby belonging to a rural family.
The exposure of the fabrications has led the media watchdog Propaganda Department to call for greater self-discipline among journalists.